Friday, January 27, 2012

Speaker Moonstate

Remember when Gov. (the first around) Jerry Brown became known as Gov. Moonbeam?  I think Speaker Gingrich is about to become Speaker Moonstate:

Gingrich promised that “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.”
Gingrich, the former House speaker, told an overflowing crowd gathered on Florida’s space coast Wednesday that he wants to develop a robust commercial space industry in line with the airline boom of the 1930s. He also wants to expand exploration of Mars.
Gingrich is so confident in his vision in a lunar base that he said if the colony had 13,000 permanent American residents it should be considered for statehood.
Space travel is cool.  A permanent Moon base would also be cool.  I remember some years ago seeing a U.S. flag with a spiral galaxy replacing the fifty stars, and I liked it!  (The U.S. Senate chamber is going to need some serious enlarging to seat two senators from each of one hundred billion stars.)  But those are luxury items--things that countries that have a balanced budget can afford.  We have an existential budget deficit crisis.  I know that Gingrich is trying to stir up votes on the Space Coast of Florida, but a bit of reality, please?


  1. Eh, maybe not.... the way I read the speech, he was suggesting changing the regulatory climate to make it attractive to the private sector to do the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively). things like withdrawing from the UN treaty on Outer Space to allow private entities to own mineral rights and real estate claims on extraterrestrial bodies. think of it not as a colony so much as a mining town. remember that 60% of all the nickel ever mined came from a single ancient asteroid impact in Sudbury Canada, and there are millions of asteroids out there. the moon would be an excellent base of operations for mining earth orbit crossing asteroids. lots of sunlight for powering the smelters, plenty of high quality vacuum for them as well. as well as just enough of a gravity well to make sure things move in the right direction while not being so deep that it costs an arm and a leg to launch from there.

  2. I caught Gingrich's event in Florida on CSPAN and thought it was quite good. His plans don't involve expensive government bureaucracies. And he cited many examples in the past of visionary politicians.

    There's nothing wrong with planning for a better tomorrow.

  3. I am not adverse to allowing the private sector to play a bigger role, and Gingrich's point about use of prizes to encourage innovation is a good one. Most major exploration advances, however, have involved a lot of government funding, and this one is going to be one of them. There is a time and place for this--after we get the serious problems of the budget fixed.

    He does seem to be pandering to local interests.

  4. One of the things Gingrich has been quite a fan of is Jerry Pournelle's idea of offering prizes for various developments. For example, if we could pass a law saying, "The first person to build a colony on the moon and maintain one hundred people alive and in good health in that colony for one year shall be awarded a prize in the amount of ten billion dollars."

    Or... "The first person to build a space-based solar power system capable of delivering one hundred megawatts to a ground-based power grid shall be awarded a prize in the amount of ten billion dollars."

    The neat thing about prizes is they cost nothing at all until the goal is achieved.

  5. I'd rather spend my government dollars on Engineers than welfare cheats.

  6. To paraphrase Mark Steyn of recent: the national debt limit will reach the moon first.

  7. Skip the moon base, and build one on Mars instead.

  8. I'd like to believe the claim that Newt isn't talking about Government spending, but the fact is, Newt is a Big Government Progressive--not the conservative he makes it out to be. Indeed, he's particularly dangerous, because he loves to wrap up Progressivism in Conservative language, to make evil things like mandated health care sound conservative.

    Thus, I'm going to take the claim that Newt is talking about private enterprise doing the heavy lifting with a huge grain of salt--and I would, even if it came from his own lips.

    I'm also not sure if prizes are a good idea, especially if they come from Government. I'm more inclined to say that the real prize should be profitability, because if (with current technology, at least) space colonies aren't profitable, then they won't be sustainable beyond the big prize; indeed, if it's expensive enough, a big prize might just help cut the loss!

  9. Dave, the problem with Mars is that the costs and risks go up exponentially. Instead of being three days travel from Earth, they are a year away. and just shielding the spacecraft well enough to keep them from dying of radiation exposure for that year each way would seriously impact the launch costs. AND the benefits of hard vacuum and shallow gravity well for asteroid mining go away. Not to mention all the Helium 3 that the moon has that Mars doesn't.